Summary: God wants everyone to see and share his wisdom. Sometimes we can’t see that Christ came for everyone and can use everyone. We need to share our gifts and burdens just like Christ shared himself with everyone-both Jews and Gentiles.
Well, Christmas is almost over for another year. For most of us the holidays are over and our lives get back to normal this week. Children will be going back to school, people will be going back to work, family and friends will be going home (if they haven’t gone home already), and we will be settling back into our normal routines.
There is one more part of Christmas to come, and that’s why I said that Christmas is almost over. There is one more gift for all of us, and today-the Feast of the Epiphany-we receive that gift. That gift is the fact that Jesus came for all of us-both Jews and Gentiles. This concept is represented in the visit of the Magi, which we heard in Matthew 2:1-12, but it is also represented in the legendary story of the fourth wise man-a man named Artaban.
As he journeyed with his friends, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, he became separated from them. He never made it to Bethlehem. For many years he sought the Christ Child and in the process had many adventures and assisted many people, including dying beggars and frightened mothers, to whom he gave two of the three great jewels he had originally planned to give to Jesus. He even traveled to Egypt, hearing that Jesus and his parents had gone there, but was again frustrated in his quest. Now, after 33 years of searching he arrived in Jerusalem, hoping at last that he might find the child.
At Passover time, Artaban, now an old man, noted an unusual commotion and inquired about its cause. People answered him, "We are going to the place called Golgotha, just outside the walls of the city, to see two robbers and a man named Jesus of Nazareth, who are being crucified on crosses. The man Jesus calls himself the Son of God, and Pontius Pilate has sent him to be crucified because he claims to be the king of the Jews."
Artaban knew instinctively that this is the king he had been searching for his whole life. Thus, he rushed to the scene. On the way he encountered a young girl being sold into slavery. She saw his royal robes and fell at his feet pleading with him to rescue her. His heart was moved and he gave away the last jewel for her ransom. Just then, darkness fell over the land and the earth shook, and great stones fell into the streets. One of them fell upon Artaban, crushing his head.
As he lay dying in the arms of the girl he had just ransomed, he cried out in a weak voice, "Three and thirty years I looked for thee, Lord, but I have never seen thy face nor ministered to thee!" Then a voice came from heaven, strong and kind, which said, "Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of my brothers or sisters, you did it to me." Artaban's face grew calm and peaceful. His long journey was ended. He had found his king!
This popular story powerfully presents the Epiphany message. The three magi of whom Saint Matthew speaks in his gospel brought their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, recognizing Jesus as priest, prophet, and king. Additionally, their presence in Bethlehem demonstrated how Christ was manifest to the nations. In a similar way, Artaban's adventure showed that Christ calls us to manifest his glory to all nations. Artaban's goodness and openness to all, even those he did not know, brought the face of Christ, namely the one he sought, to him. Additionally, those to whom he came, the poor and destitute, became Christ to him. Without realizing it, all his life he had been achieving his goal, to see the Christ Child. We, in turn, are challenged to be Christ to others; we must be ambassadors of the Lord.
God came to us in the form of Jesus so that we could come back to him. When we come to Christ, we are adopted into his family. We are also freed from the bondage of sin. That freedom has a purpose, which is being part of God’s plan for our lives. Our lives and the paths we take in life matter to God. We are to remember this when our lives seem aimless and without direction.
The church was unknown in the Old Testament and the Gospels. It wasn’t fully revealed until the events in Acts 2 occurred, especially the events that happened on the Day of Pentecost. It was not fully explained until Paul began his mission. The heart and soul of the mystery of the church is that Jews and Gentiles are joined into one body. The Gentiles are fellow heirs with the Jews, fellow members of God’s household, and fellow partakers of the promise of salvation for everyone. This process started with the visit of the Magi, but it was not fully realized until Peter preached to and baptized the Roman centurion Cornelius and his family.